June 21, 1985
Thank you, Bert Mason, my fellow Lions, Congressman Armey. I always enjoy visiting Texas. It's a big State with a big heart.
A member of my staff was visiting not long ago and asked the cab driver about the scooped out top on the Texas Stadium here in Dallas. And the cabbie, in keeping with typical Texas modesty, simply replied, ``That's so God can watch.''
Well, it's a pleasure to be with you today. I know that every Lion, wherever you are from, has a Texas-sized heart, and I'd like to welcome especially those many Lions who are here from other countries. All I can tell you is that, as Lions, you are associated with some of the best darn Americans this country has to offer.
There are few citizens who so well reflect the heart and soul of our country as do the Lions. Our forefathers and mothers were fiercely independent and proud of their freedom. Yet the spirit of neighbor helping neighbor is an essential part of the legacy they left us.
The idea of a humanitarian service organization that Melvin Jones set in motion in 1917 was totally consistent with the American character. His dream quickly spread throughout this country, was carried to distant lands, and you are now, as Bert told you, the largest service club organization on the face of the Earth. Who says that one individual can't make a difference?
Melvin Jones knew that good deeds benefit the giver and the receiver, that one who gives of himself is spiritually enriched. Today we also understand that government cannot assume the responsibility for all good works without destroying the spirit of benevolence and sense of community so important to the well-being of any free society.
Government, even with the best of intentions, sometimes does more harm than good. But, you know, sometimes these government programs are a bit like the story of the country preacher who called on a town about a hundred miles away. He'd been invited there to speak; went there for this revival meeting. And on the way to church, he noticed on the main street of that town, sitting on the porch of a little country store, was a man from his own hometown, an individual who happened to be known for his excessive drinking.
And the minister stopped and went up to him, asked what he was doing so far from home. And he said, ``Well, reverend, the beer is 5 cents a bottle cheaper here.'' [Laughter] Well, the reverend told him that didn't make much sense, the expense of traveling all that way and back, the price of lodging all the time he was there. And the drinker just watched him and then said, ``Reverend, I'm not stupid. I just sit here and drink until I show a profit.'' [Laughter]
That was the kind of logic that fit some of the Federal programs of the last 20 years. [Laughter]
Excessive government spending, taxing, and regulating -- no matter how well intended -- is a formula for disaster. And that's exactly where this country was headed and why we changed course 4\1/2\ years ago. The American people decided once again to give freedom a chance. It was time to put this country back on the path to lower taxes, individual responsibility, and economic growth. I'm proud of what we accomplished during our first term. We started rebuilding our defensive strength, we beat down inflation, and we got our country moving again.
The foundation was laid during the first term. Now it's time to finish the job. And the first order of business is a complete overhaul of America's antiquated, unfair, and overly complicated tax system. The current tax code is the Federal Government's version of Rubik's Cube. [Laughter] It's a game that most of us never figure out and few of us win.
I like to think of our proposal as a fair share tax, because it will mean greater fairness and new opportunity for every income group in every region of America. It will, when enacted, cut out complications and bring down the rates. It'll reduce the number of rates from 14 to 3 -- 15, 25, and 35 percent. The mind-boggling system of itemized deductions, special credits, and exclusions will go through a major simplification and reform. The result will be a simpler and fairer system that will enable out economy to grow more competitive and our people to prosper.
Now, today the tax code is so voluminous and complex even the Internal Revenue Service has trouble understanding it. Do you remember not too long ago they had to warn taxpayers not to depend too much on their own employees because they didn't understand it either? Well, fairly enforcing such a mishmash of ever-changing rules and regulations is a Herculean effort. And if you get the feeling that some people aren't paying their fair share, while others are getting soaked, you're right. And that's got to stop.
Let me just add in here -- when the income tax amendment was passed back in 1913, it consisted of 16 words. Today I've been told that over at the Treasury Department, the books of regulations and rules and explanations of the income tax make a line of books 57 feet long. The simpler system we're proposing will be easier to enforce. It also will be more difficult for special interests without the cover of an incomprehensible tax code to have tailormade tax breaks written into the system. It's about time a tax code is written for the general interest instead of the special interests.
As for the amount of taxes paid, the fact is most Americans will end up with lower tax burdens when our plan is adopted. Taxes for the poor and elderly will be less or eliminated altogether. Some people, generally those who've legally manipulated the current system, will pay more. But in the end, everyone will benefit because our tax program is designed to keep our economy vigorous and growing -- the key to a better tomorrow.
The old system has been a drag on the most productive members of our society. Our plan is future oriented, a blueprint for progress and better times. Today the Government taxes away one of every two dollars of those in the top bracket. Well, our plan will take only about one in three dollars. Today the Government takes away one of every three dollars of millions of middle-income families. Our plan will make that only one in four dollars. Today those who want to take more money home spend their time trying to find tax dodges and shelters. Our system will encourage them to be more efficient, to increase their investments, to work harder, which benefits everyone.
Our plan encourages entrepreneurs to get new businesses off the ground. And such small businesses are the source of most new jobs in the mainspring of innovation and creativity in the business world.
And just as for individuals, by bringing down the rates and reducing the number of deductions and complications, we will ensure that American business remains a shining light of enterprise and productivity that can and will lead the world to better times.
By lowering the tax rates, cutting regulation, getting control of spending, we broke out of the quagmire of inflation and recession. The growth we've enjoyed has astounded our friends abroad and confounded our adversaries. I'll never forget sitting down with our allies at the last three international economic summits and being asked by my colleagues from those other countries how our economy was producing so many new jobs. In the last 30 months nearly 8 million new jobs were created in America. In virtually all of Europe they told me not one new job has been created in the last 10 years.
The American people aren't the only ones who've benefited, however. As our economy picked up, Americans began spending and investing money in other countries. Our own prosperity has been and continues to be a mighty engine for economic progress, pulling along even stagnant, over-regulated, and over-taxed economies.
I hope those of you who are here from other countries will carry this message back to your people: Americans want you to succeed and to prosper. We have no desire to live as an island of plenty. We don't want jobs and higher standards of living just for our people. We don't want prosperity just at home. We'll be satisfied with nothing less than a worldwide recovery.
Now, we fully recognize that all free people, with their diverse cultures and customs, must choose their own course, their own way. Nevertheless, we hope that our friends will learn from our experience.
Free men, free minds, and free markets can and will make this a better world. It's only when people are free to challenge what exists and offer something new that mankind is able to step forward; only when people are free to dream and discuss untried ideas that a society remains vibrant; only when people are free in the marketplace to meet the needs of others as best they can that innovation and opportunity can become the order of the day.
Such freedom serves as a ladder of social and economic advancement for all people, step by step improving the lot of every individual from top to bottom. Ingenuity, imagination, and creativity -- these are the forces unleashed by human freedom; these are the forces that built America. And if given a chance, they can reshape the face of this planet.
Critics of freedom would have us believe that liberty is at odds with the spirit of brotherhood. Well, you are living proof of the good will and humane values that are generated by freedom. Today there's a new recognition of the principles advocated by Melvin Jones. Individual commitment is alive and well. The latest statistics on private sector initiatives show that 92 million people in the United States volunteer a portion of their time -- this is an increase of 8 million between 1981 and 1983. Most volunteers donate 1 to 3 hours a week; the next largest percentage donates more than 5 hours weekly.
And in 1984 there was a record rise in giving to charitable causes, up 11.1 percent over 1983. The amount given voluntarily by Americans is greater than the entire national budgets of two-thirds of the nations of the world, more than $74 billion last year. Now, that is just the assets donated. Time and in-kind contributions if calculated in dollars would double or triple that amount.
These are the kind of statistics that underscore the true strength of our country. And much of this philanthropy, in keeping with our traditions, is aimed at helping the less fortunate in other countries. When famine raised its ugly head in Ethiopia, Americans rushed to aid those in need. So far this year the United States has donated 425,000 tons of food. This compares to a paltry 2,500 tons donated by Communist Ethiopia's closest ally, the Soviet Union. It seems with all their sloganeering about the only things Communist countries produce in quantity are misery, weapons, and aggression. The record of humanitarian assistance provided by the Soviet bloc governments, even to their own allies, is a disgrace, and the world, especially the developing world, should know about it. Of course, Communist countries have trouble producing even enough food for their own populations.
You know, there's a story -- I kind of collect stories that I understand and I can conver -- I mean, I can convince myself are true that are being told among the Russian people to each other, and this one has to do with a commissar who visited a collective farm, grabbed the first fellow that was walking by, and said, ``How are things going? Are there any complaints?'' And the farmer he grabbed says, ``Oh, comrade commissar, I've never heard anyone complain.'' And the commissar said, ``Well, how are the crops?'' ``Oh, sir, they've never been better.'' ``How about potatoes?'' He said, ``Comrade commissar, if the potatoes were put in one pile, they would reach the foot of God.'' And the commissar said, ``Just a minute. This is the Soviet Union; there is no God.'' And the worker said, ``That's all right. There are no potatoes.'' [Laughter]
Seriously though, the outpouring of love and support by the free people of the world to the hungry of the world is something we can all be proud of. And as usual, Lions are doing their share as we see in your efforts to get food and supplies into remote areas in Ethiopia. I also am aware of your campaign against blindness in the industrialized and developing countries. And you deserve everyone's deepest admiration for these projects and for your many other humanitarian endeavors.
On the domestic front, last year you reached out to feed America's needy during National Care and Share Day. You're involved in community projects throughout the country.
And I'd like to take this opportunity to thank you for all you're doing to fight drug abuse. Nancy told me all about your convention last year. And she was gratified to be honored by you, but when she got home, she said she felt like she should have been giving you the award and not the other way around.
Your efforts and those of other concerned Americans outside the structure of government are absolutely vital to the success of this all-important campaign. With the help of the Quest National Center and [entertainer] Bill Cosby, you're teaching kids to say no to drugs. We're trying to deter young people from getting involved and to help those using drugs to stop. And we'll be satisfied with nothing less than a drug-free America. Together we're going to cut the legs out from under the drug dealers, by eliminating the demand for their goods. It's the Lions versus the drug dealers, and I'm betting on the Lions.
The other half of the law -- or the war, I should say, is a strong law enforcement and drug interdiction campaign to stop the flow of illegal drugs before it reaches the customers. Now, this is a complicated and frustrating job, but it lets every youngster in this country know we're serious. It sends the message that drug use is a threat; an ugly, life-destroying vice; and that it is wrong. I'm pleased to report that the message is getting through. Young people are turning away from drugs. Today fewer young people are smoking marijuana, cocaine use is leveling off. A new sense of responsibility is emerging in the entertainment industry. The trends are in the right direction, and this is cause for rejoicing. But please, don't let up.
Illegal drugs, of course, are only one part of a crime epidemic that spread across our country in the sixties and seventies. Well-intentioned liberals cut the muscle out of our criminal justice system and then acted surprised when the criminal element took the offensive. Law enforcers have been operating under bizarre rules that serve as roadblocks to the conviction of the guilty, but do little to protect the innocent.
Well, last year we passed a Comprehensive Crime Control Act, a first step toward reestablishing a balance to the criminal justice system. Let me assure you Attorney General Meese is going to keep pushing for further reforms until every American neighborhood is safe. I hope we can count on your support, because we're taking the streets back for the good and decent people of this country.
In the last few days, it has become even more clear that the criminal threat to civilization is no mere domestic problem. Wednesday night in El Salvador four young marines in civilian clothes, along with civilians from America and several other countries, were gunned down in a sidewalk cafe. This event was preceded by the wanton bombing of an air terminal in Frankfurt, Germany; the hijacking of one of our airliners; and the seizure of a Jordanian aircraft. The killers in El Salvador are no different than those other perpetrators of inhumane acts.
I can promise all of them this: They will never succeed in weakening our resolve to resist terrorism. We consider these murders, hijackings, and abductions an attack on all Western civilization by uncivilized barbarians. We will continue to act with appropriate restraint. But let no one doubt our resolve. Those who commit such crimes should be aware of the truth of President Theodore Roosevelt's observation, ``The American people,'' he said, ``are slow to wrath, but once their wrath is kindled, it burns like a consuming flame.''
Well, like our forefathers, we have the courage to protect our rights, and we're proud of our freedom. We're working hard to improve our own lot, to contribute to the less fortunate, and to improve our communities and neighborhoods.
The truth is, it is only under freedom that a true fellowship of the spirit can exist. Love is not something that can be mandated by law or enforced by bureaucracy. It is when people voluntarily help one another, giving of themselves freely, that they receive the blessings of the soul which God has promised. This is an important part of freedom, the shining light which is a beacon to all who live in the darkness in tyranny -- the fundamental truth that free people do indeed love and care for one another.
Thank you, Lions. You're holding the torch for all the world to see. Fellow Lions, God bless you all.
Note: The President spoke at 11:59 a.m. in the Reunion Arena. He was introduced by Bert Mason, international president of the organization. Prior to his remarks, the President met in the arena with families of the hostages in the TWA hijacking incident.